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HOA hides behind CC&R to practice religious discrimination

Nothing sparks the holiday spirit like a glowing tree covered in colorful lights or a lawn display of the nativity scene. However, for those who live in California communities managed by homeowners associations, such displays may violate the Covenant, Conditions & Restrictions they agree to when they purchase homes in that community. At this time of year, it is not unusual for homeowners to lock horns with an HOA regarding their holiday decorations. However, one family recently prevailed when their HOA stepped over the line.

The family in another state had just moved to a new home in an HOA community. Previously, they had a reputation for constructing elaborate Christmas displays in their yard that drew spectators from across the state to see the display that included a choir of carolers, a nativity scene with live animals and over 200,000 lights. The new community was not pleased with the busloads of people that came to see the display, and the family claims they and their spectators suffered threats and harassment.

The couple filed a lawsuit, claiming the HOA discriminated against them because of their religious beliefs. HOA members claimed they merely warned the family that their neighbors had complained about the excessive decorations and increased traffic. However, evidence presented during the lawsuit indicated that some members of the HOA wanted the family to leave specifically because of their Christian faith. The court sided with the family, awarding them $75,000 in damages.

Battling with an HOA can certainly dampen one's holiday spirit. Residents of a community may be willing to abide by the CC&R, but no HOA contract should allow for discriminating against residents because of their race, religion or other protected statuses. Anyone in California who is dealing with discrimination from an HOA should seek legal advice on the best way to proceed.

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